Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004: The Year's Finest Writing on Rock, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Pop, Country & More
. Da Capo Press, $15.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-306-81380-1
Da Capo's fifth anthology of the year's best music writing features former Grateful Dead drummer Hart as its guest editor, and as one might expect, the selections, a hodge-podge of hits and misses, ramble on like one of the Dead's famous free-form sets. While the volume glides across many musical genres, a number of the pieces seem to reflect more on the music industry than on the music or the musicians. Notable pieces include Geoff Bouchers's story on the decline of session drumming from the Los Angeles Times, and the clever, candid assessment of the hip-hop world in Ta-Nehisi Coates's Village Voice piece, ""Keepin' it Unreal,"" which takes on the ""gangsta"" myth used to sell records. ""Gangsta rap today is about as reflective of reality as, well, a reality show,"" Coates argues. Word up. Stalwart jazz writer Gene Santoro's piece for the Nation on Willie Nelson at 70 also resonates. Meanwhile, Alex Ross's New Yorker piece, ""Rock 101,"" leads the list of overblown snoozers. All in all, the book is an enjoyable compendium of music musings drawn from major publications and some well-known alt-weeklies. One hopes future editions will include more pieces from online zines, which is arguably where the most vibrant music writing now resides.
Reviewed on: 10/11/2004